Almost half of the children grow up in incomplete or broken families. This presents plenty of challenges to their education, and mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Witnessing conflicts of parents, and often listening to contradictory stories from each of their guardians, children often struggle to find a solid ground under their feet…
Working as a Family Advocate, you will provide child-focused mediation between parents, helping to address disputes, and find the best parenting plan for each specific situation of each individual family. This is a specialty field of social work, and now we will have a look at some questions you may face while interviewing for this job.
Why do you want to work as a family advocate?
Try to tell them a story. It can be one of your own family problems, or something you experiences around you, with people you care about. You quickly understood how difficult it can be for a child to grow up in a divorced family, and how often parents do things in their best interest, which isn’t necessary the best interest of a child.
Hence once you’ve done your initial years in social work (case management, or other field), you were always looking forward to this specialization. What’s more, since you have vast understanding for culturally diverse families, and the way their members perceive various issues when it comes to upbringing of a child, and you always excelled in conflict resolution, you feel to be the right candidate for the job.
With your experience, personality, and attitude, you believe to be able to help the families to find a solution that’s best for the child(ren), and at the same time acceptable for everyone else.
You may see and hear a lot of bad things in this job. How do you plan to handle it emotionally?
Ensure them that you expect no walk in a part. Many parents will consider you their enemy, and many may not cooperate with you at all. They may lie to you, tell you some bad words, and in times they may even show signs of aggression.
Say that expecting it is a first step of getting ready to handle it. You can also say that you have an understanding for the emotional world of both parents and children, that you understand why they can be upset or uncooperative. It helps you to cope with the situation.
The third thing is keeping distance. For sure you want to try your best for each family, find the best solutions for everyone. Well-being of your clients matters to you. However, you plan to try your best to not get emotionally involved in the cases, and that will help you to get over both bad words and setbacks you may experience.
Tell us about a time when you successfully reconciled a conflict between two people.
Reconciling conflicts will form a core of your job. You do not have to talk about an example when you tried to settle out conflict of parents though. Any conflict situation will do.
Try to describe the situation in detail–what the conflict was about, the perspective of each conflict party, what was at stake (for each one of them, and perhaps also for a child). Then you should talk about the strategy you chose, and goal you followed (what you tried to achieve with your intervention).
Of course you should pick a situation with a happy ending, that means when you eventually found a compromise both conflict parties were ready to accept. You can also explain the impact it had on the conflict parties, or on a third party (a child).
The key is to demonstrate with your answer that you think and act systematically, and approach each conflict individually, and won’t give up easily.
How do you want to win the trust of your clients?
Building trust is one of those things that are easier to say than do, when we talk about social work in general. But you can at least try to suggest some ideas of gaining trust of your clients.
First one is being clear about your intentions from the start, with both parents. You plan to clearly explain your role to them, and ensure them that you are there to advocate for each one of them, and try to find a solution that will work for all (or at least one all can accept).
Another suggestion is being transparent about your plans, and actively involving parents in the decision making process. You won’t just come and listen and then give the parenting plan. On the contrary, you want them to be actively involved in the creation of the plan, give comments and suggestions, and have an impact on the final version. Making them feel involved, you make it easier for them to accept the final call.
How do you feel about presenting your findings in front of a court?
You may or not be present during the court hearings, but you will give your opinion–and all involved parties will hear it. There’s no place to hide once you talk (or are read) in the court.
Ensure the interviewers that you have no problem with that. You know that some of the parents may not like what they hear, your expert opinion. And some of them may even threaten you afterwards. But that’s all part of the profession, you have legal ways of protecting yourself, and at the end of the day, you simply try your best in each case. Hence you do not mind to share your opinion in front of a court.
Imagine that you cannot find a good solution for a family, one that will satisfy all interested parties. What will you do in such a case?
This can easily happen, especially if the parents are “in war“, and won’t agree on anything–not because they really do not like each other’s ideas, or your ideas, simply because they hate each other…
Anyway, you cannot leave the case without a close. Say that if you cannot find a good solution for everyone, you will choose a solution that’s best for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the children in question, following your observations and interviews with all parties.
Other questions you may face in your Family Advocate job interview
- How do you plan to deal with disappointment in this job?
- When visiting a family at home (or one of the parents), what things do you observe while trying to assess the relationships in the family?
- What do you consider the toughest aspect of this job?
- Tell us about a most stressful experience you had as a social worker.
- How do you want to monitor the success of the parenting program you suggest in a family?
- When everything is said and done, what would you like to accomplish as a Family Advocate?
Conclusion, next steps
Family Advocate is not a fancy job title, and you won’t compete with crowds of other applicants for the position. In many cases you can be the only job candidate, or one of two or three shortlisted candidates.
Remember that your experience, and especially your attitude to various tricky situations that can happen in this job matters the most for the hiring managers. Read the questions once again and think about a short answer to each one. I hope you will find the right words on the big day, and wish you best of luck!
May also help you prepare:
- Case Manager interview questions – Many of them may overlap with the interview for a job of a family advocate. Check them out and do not underestimate your preparation.
- Social work interview – What are your strength and weaknesses?
- Child Protective Services interview questions.